Your blogger finally managed to visit a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Aurora, Colorado, and had some of his suspicions confirmed. Judging by what I saw in the store, it is obvious that Kroger (NYSE: KR) has Walmart Stores Inc.’s (NYSE: WMT) management team running scared.
I have not been such a store yet because there is none within easy driving distance of my house. I was in Aurora for a medical appointment, and since I saw a Neighborhood Market, I decided to drop in and take a look around. The first and most interesting thought I had is: “this does not look like Walmart.” It actually looked a lot more like a Kroger’s supermarket.
The store was actually laid out like a Kroger; it was a lot more compact than a normal Walmart. It was also far better laid out, and it was much easier to find stuff. One of my big gripes about Walmart is that it is hard to find merchandise in their stores, something that even Walmart USA President Greg Foran has also noted. The store itself was also a lot cleaner than the Walmarts I am used to. The store was brighter and less cluttered than the big rural supercenters I usually shop at.
Something else that really surprised me about Walmart Neighborhood Market was that it was well staffed, and employees even asked me if I needed any help finding something. The employees were also wearing polo shirts rather than the traditional blue Walmart jackets.
A Major Checkout Advance
The checkout was also really impressive. The checkout lines are set up to work with either a clerk or as self-service. That seems like a major process advance that will speed up service and save money. That ensured there were plenty of lanes open, and I used the self-service, which got me out of the store fast. Walmart, it seems, has answered one of the major customer gripes that not enough lanes are open with technology.
It looks as if Walmart is capable of solving some of its basic problems and adapting to a changing retail industry. If what I saw in Aurora, a seedy Denver suburb, is the norm, Walmart Neighborhood Market is more than capable of competing with outfits like Kroger.
Walmart has figured out how to make a successful small box format. Companies like Dollar Tree Stores (NASDAQ: DLTR) and Dollar General (NYSE: DG) as well as regional grocers had better take notice. Walmart has proven itself capable of producing a better small box store.
The nation’s biggest retailer is capable of evolving, and it does have a very bright future if it can duplicate this experiment elsewhere. Walmart seems to have finally learned that it needs to adapt to survive and thrive in today’s retail wars.
Disclosure your friendly neighborhood blogger is long on Kroger stock.